Sawbuck Gamer

Star Command

Space Madness

Star Command proves that running a spaceship isn’t as easy as it looks.

By Sam Barsanti • May 28, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Warballoon seems to have a skewed understanding of the balance between risk and reward. It’s easy to see why, though. The developer learned the hard way that a big risk doesn’t always yield a big reward when, after fees and the cost of backer T-shirts, it was left with only $4,000 of its nearly $40,000 raised on Kickstarter to develop Star Command. Two years and another Kickstarter later, the game is finished, and, fittingly, it is all about risk and reward. Also fittingly, it’s about as unbalanced as a standoff between the Death Star and Serenity.

In Star Command, you are a space captain charged with assembling a ship and crew and strategizing your way through a gauntlet of ship-to-ship battles. Every order you give requires a certain amount of time to accomplish. To fire your weapons or recharge your shields, you need to watch a meter fill up. Some actions require you to spend tokens, which are earned by watching your tiny pixelated crew members fill up meters. Enemy ships have meters of their own that show when they’re ready to attack. It’s basic time management, but if you’re watching one meter, it means you’re at risk of missing the moment another fills up and requires your attention. It gets hectic, especially when a boarding party of giant bird assassins is knocking on your door. If you manage to survive, you’ll earn tokens that can be used to upgrade your ship or replace fallen crew members. Once I began wrangling the mid-battle chaos and appreciating its strange sense of humor, Star Command was a blast. Juggling your crew, ship, and enemy ship is not easy, but it is exciting to squeeze out a victory in the face of such ridiculous odds (and so many little meters). Just be prepared for the risk to outweigh the reward.

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

21 Responses to “Space Madness”

  1. Matt Gerardi says:

    Wow. That’s definitely one of the best Humble Bundles so far. 

    • Emina Dulovic says:

      until I lℴℴk℮d at the draft ℴf $9771, I b℮ sur℮ that my n℮ighbℴur ℂℴuld trully taking hℴm℮ mℴn℮y inside their spar℮ tim℮ ℴn their appl℮ labtℴp.. th℮r℮ n℮ighbℴr start℮d ℂrrying this ℴut 4 nℴ mℴr℮ than twenty twℴ mℴnths and resently repaid the debts ℴn their place and bℴurt a stylish Lancia. l℮arn mℴr℮ at……

      • Cloks says:

        Haha, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say! Is this time for me to write a short play?


        Cloks: Hello Spambot! What wonderful products are you trying to sell us today?

        Spambot: Hher’s a simpl truck to making loss of many pounds only a hiusewife discofered it?!

        Cloks: That…. that doesn’t make much sense, Spambot. Are you trying to tell me that I’m fat?

        Spambot: Schmaltz iss a you can body have eating chiken fat is valyble partt of diet.

        Cloks: Well, that’s just vaguely anti-Semitic. That really didn’t have to be shcmaltz. You could have just said fat!

        Spambot: Ar you buyng ponds of anti-semitsm itssss cheper to by it all a once.

        Cloks: Okay… I’m leaving now! Haha, time to write a short play about this encounter.

  2. WarrenPeace says:

    Oh good lord, looks like I’m finally plunging into the Hotline Miami violence-fest that everyone has been excited about. 

  3. Remember like two weeks ago when people were all “hey wow, maybe I should play this Little Inferno thing from Sawbuck and Game That Tune”? The time is nigh. Yeah, all around fantastic bundle.

    • Chalkdust says:

       That was me! I said that (maybe other people did too?)  And now I’ve bought it through this very Humble Bundle (likewise I am interested in Proteus, and of course ALL THE SOUNDTRACKS FOREVER!)

      I’ll sort out my Steam keys later, cuz I will have extras for some things that I am willing to give away (Capsized, Hotline Miami, and I think Dear Esther).

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    I just now realized what your avatar was. I’ve been creeped out by it for a while, but for some reason today it clicked why that was.

  5. ItsTheShadsy says:

    Aw shit. I’ve been on the fence about Proteus, so this might bump me over.

  6. zerocrates says:

    It seems like the developer had more of a skewed understanding of T-shirt and shipping costs than risk/reward.

    They say they spent $10,000 on making and shipping T-shirts, posters, etc. A little glance at their first Kickstarter page shows they had 97 people paying $100 to get those things. So by their own numbers, even before counting the Amazon and Kickstarter cuts, they made about negative one dollar each from those 97 backers. It looks like they also had nearly 1,000 people at $25 who they were supposed to get smaller physical things like buttons and stickers, and it’s not clear what happened there. Some of their updates talk about “200” shirts/posters/etc., which makes the numbers make slightly more sense, but doesn’t jibe with Kickstarter’s numbers

    It’s not quite as bad as just getting $4,000 out of the deal, they counted payments for music, legal fees, art, hardware to develop on, etc. before coming up with that figure. It’d be interesting to know how much (if any) of the $150,000 PC/Mac Kickstarter from 2012 made its way into this version instead.

  7. Girard says:

    I am so on top of this. Such a great set, I get to support Hotline Miami AGAIN, AND get a DRM-free copy I can use to evangelize to students in my tech-art classes (adult, undergrad students, of course… I’m not going to subject the littluns to it, as awesome as it is…).

    • Enkidum says:

      Are you suggesting that it’s not appropriate for my 8-year-old?

      • Girard says:

        I wouldn’t make a blanket statement like that, necessarily, but it’s probably something a parent should decide and not the kids’ video game summer camp counselor…

  8. Enkidum says:

    Just got it for 10 bucks – woohoo for Awesomenauts and, well, everything else.

  9. DrFlimFlam says:

    The AngryJoe review was far less forgiving to this game. I don’t know what to think except that it’s probably somewhere in the middle.

    • belgand says:

      This has, so far, been the most positive review I’ve read of it. I’d been looking forward to it myself, but almost every other outlet seems to be relatively unimpressed.

  10. CrabNaga says:

    What does this game offer that FTL didn’t already do? It just looks like an isometric FTL to me.

  11. itisdancing says:

    I really appreciate that the Humble Bundle lets you choose exactly where your money goes, so you can spite individual developers if necessary.